A COMBINED fundraising effort between Gaelic football clubs in Ireland and the UK has raised more than £100,000 for a Gaelic footballer battling cancer.
A total of £32,234 was raised via 7-a-side Gaelic football tournament and other events in London recently to help Dulwich Harps club member Siobhan McCann in her bid to secure life-prolonging drugs not available on the NHS.
This follows similar fundraising efforts in her hometown.
The happy and outgoing 26 year-old had been playing on the Harps Ladies team until this April, when she received the devastating news she had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
She moved home to commence radiotherapy and chemotherapy a month later.
Siobhan was due to have surgery in July to remove a tumour in her bowel. But days before the surgery, she learned that the treatment she underwent was unsuccessful and that the cancer has spread to her liver.
She underwent a more aggressive chemotherapy regime and -following research by Siobhan’s family and friends- they looked at a drug called Bevacizumab (Avastin). But it comes at a substantial cost of £100,000.
Yet the united efforts of GAA clubs across London and beyond have given her hope of conquering her toughest opponent yet.
“We need to keep fundraising going as we don’t know how much treatment Siobhan will need,” her father Brendan told The Irish Post.
He coaches Siobhan's hometown club St John’s side who also made the journey to Greenford.
Speaking at the tournament, he said: “You look around here today, and you see the support for Siobhan. She has only been in London two years.
“I have met people here for the first time from across the London GAA spectrum and they are first class.
“And it’s not just GAA people. The people who are involved directly with the club then go to their work, and ensure their colleagues at work have supported this fundraiser as well. I can’t into words how much this means to us.”
Siobhan made the journey over for the tournament - temporarily suspending her treatment of Bevacizumab- to do so. And she was ‘blown away’ by the response from Gaels near and far on the day.
She said: “When my close friend Cormac McMullan found out the news, he set the wheels in motion and wanted me to get the best treatment possible.
“So when we heard about these prolonging life drugs, everyone just rallied together. Everyone is backing me. I can’t get over the love you have all shown. It is unbelievable.”
The GAA has always been a focal point of Siobhan’s life and she credits the community spirit of the organisation in helping her adapt to London when she made that initial move two years ago.
“At the very start I was flying home for matches with my home club, St John’s of Drumnaquoile,” she explained.
“But the journeys got too much. As soon as I joined Dulwich the boys and girls were warm and welcoming. It immediately felt like a home away from home. They were just unbelievable to me and I fitted in straight away.
“Then I started working with Fulham Irish as a physio and they have been great as well. I enjoyed every moment with them. They helped organise today along with Dulwich Harps.
“If I hadn’t joined a Gaelic football club, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in London as long. It’s great to see so many familiar faces. And meet new people who have gone above and beyond for me. I can’t thank you all enough.”
St Kiernans triumphed in the Mens 7-a-side competition whilst Parnells came through Tir Chonaill Gaels in a competitive Ladies final, with Alice O’Brien being a particular standout.
But for Parnells coach Tommie Donohue, the result was never the main motivation on the day.
“When you see a young person like Siobhan in that situation, it should all make us think differently,” he said.
“She was so positive today when she came in to chat to us for a couple of minutes before one of our games. She inspired our girls - as I am sure she inspires everyone she meets.”
You can help Siobhan by going to https://uk.gofundme.com/help-beat-siobhans-toughestopponent